By Cecil Lammey
|Denver Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker carries the ball against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on Oct.15 in San Diego. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)|
It’s that time of year again as the Denver Broncos have kicked off their training camp at Dove Valley. This is always my favorite time of year as we get to see the Broncos go through practice every day. I’ve watched this team in rookie minicamp, OTAs, and minicamp this offseason but none of that matches training camp. The Broncos have several position battles that will shake out over the next month. Training camp (plus the preseason) is where those battles are won.
Play Of The Day: WR Eric Decker ran a perfect fade/stop to get open downfield (25+ yards).
Runner Up: SS Duke Ihenacho breaking up a pass intended for TE Julius Thomas at the back of the end zone.
No. 18 Peyton Manning: Manning seemed a little frustrated today. He overthrew WR Eric Decker on a deep pass early in practice. He did a nice job of hitting WR Demaryius Thomas in stride on a route over the middle and later on a screen pass. The offensive line struggled to protect Manning today and downfield routes weren’t able to develop. The best play of his day was perfectly placing a pass to Decker on a fade/stop near the sideline. During two minute drills a pass was dropped by RB Knowshon Moreno, then two passes were off the mark for Decker. The first team left the field after Thomas dropped a pass on the numbers on fourth down. It’s not the way the offense wanted to perform and I’m sure we’ll see a more effective unit tomorrow.
No. 17 Brock Osweiler: Osweiler is showing more touch with his throws. I like the way he puts the proper amount of air under the football so passes rise and fall the correct way. This means he’s spinning it the right way and the ball cuts through the air with ease. He was off target (overthrown) with a pass to Lamaar Thomas earlier in practice but it looked like a timing issue with the receiver rather a bad throw. When he needs to zip passes in he can still thread the needle. I asked Brock about his improved touch after practice and he said, “[Quarterbacks Coach Greg Knapp] has put a big emphasis on that from going all the way back to OTAs to now, in the beginning of camp. He kind of said the same thing, ‘Hey, I know you can make every throw, but you need to make a catchable ball for backs and receivers on those underneath throws. There’s no reason that you need to fire it in there.’ Because of Coach, I’ve put a large emphasis on that.”
No. 2 Zac Dysert: Another rough day for Dysert. He’s holding onto the ball too long and staring down his receivers. His mind certainly has to be swimming with the transition to the pro level. Any progress he’s made has been incredibly small. He looks the same as he did when rookie minicamp started in May.
No. 8 Ryan Katz: I had zero notes on Katz today.
No. 21 Ronnie Hillman: Hillman continued to show well as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He had a big run to the outside that went for about seven yards but could have been a much bigger (around 50 yards) had it not been for a horse collar tackle by SS Duke Ihenacho. Hillman got up from that tackle and started jawing at Ihenacho and the young Safety was talking back. As a pass protector Hillman drew cheers from the crowd when he stonewalled Von Miller and stopped him from getting to the QB. After practice Hillman talked about his improved pass protection ability. “It wasn’t the blocking part. It was just more of seeing what was going on. Now I’m seeing a lot more and it’s just being able to stand them up and being able to stall them.” Hillman bounced a run at the second level for five yards, then picked up another 10 yard run later in practice.
No. 38 Montee Ball: We didn’t see much from Ball today with the first team. It was interesting to note after the depth chart was released and he was listed as the RB2 behind Hillman. The team must have wanted to see more from Knowshon Moreno on the first team. Even in red zone work we didn’t see Ball on the field for a single rep with the top unit. On the day he got around five snaps total and only received one carry that didn’t get past the line of scrimmage. With the second team Ball didn’t fare much better as a runner, receiver, or pass blocker. He had one run for seven yards near the goal line where he was pushed out of bounds at the one. That was his longest run and best play of the day. Ball was asked about being second on the depth chart. “Yeah I’ve most definitely seen it but I think that’s right because [RB] Ronnie [Hillman] has done a great job. He’s been doing a great job this camp and he most definitely deserves it right now. But like I said I’m most definitely going to try to take it.”
No. 27 Knowshon Moreno: Moreno got quite a bit of work with the first-team today. He would come in after Hillman and received more snaps with the top unit than did Montee Ball. When the team went to the two-minute drill it was Moreno on the field. He dropped the first pass in the two minute drill and was running routes on the other three plays as the Broncos went four-and-out.
No. 35 Lance Ball: I had no notes on Ball today.
No. 37 Jeremiah Johnson: Johnson did not practice today due to a left toe injury.
No. 39 C.J. Anderson: I didn’t have many notes on Anderson today. The only play I scratched down was one where he slipped and fell down as a pass protector during team drills. The other note on Anderson was when he was smacked down with a big hit on a pass reception by ILB Steven Johnson.
No. 22 Jacob Hester: Hester caught a nice pass near the sideline but didn’t gain much after because the defenders were right there to stop him.
No. 88 Demaryius Thomas: Thomas is the player Manning looks for when he’s in trouble. He’s the first read in the passing game and continues to dominate anyone who is trying to cover him. Thomas did drop a pass over the middle on fourth-down as the team ran the two-minute drill.
No. 83 Wes Welker: I had no notes on Welker today.
No. 87 Eric Decker: Decker looked fantastic today. The breaks in his routes are always quick and Decker does a good job of not tipping off his route. He ran a fade/stop today where CB Chris Harris didn’t know Decker was going back for the ball until it was too late. Decker pressed downfield to make it look like a ‘go’ route and when Harris’ hips turned he cut back towards the sideline. He was wide open and Manning hit him with a perfect pass. It wasn’t the only play where Decker was able to burn Harris.
No. 11 Trindon Holliday: Holliday was getting quite a bit of targets from third-string QB Zac Dysert and the results were a mixed bag. He held onto some passes that were zipped in towards the sideline. Holliday caught one pass near the end zone where CB Nigel Malone essentially picked up one of his legs like he was a calf roper trying to topple a calf on his side. Dysert missed Holliday on a throw at the back of the end zone. Even if he was a foot taller he would have had difficulty hauling that pass in. On a short pass Holliday slipped once he made the catch.
No. 12 Andre Caldwell: Caldwell is listed as fourth on the depth chart and is taking advantage of the situation. He catches most passes thrown his way and he catches them cleanly. Caldwell works the sideline well and showed good body control today.
No. 15 Tavarres King: King continues to show progress as a route runner. His speed is electric and he does a good job of changing direction without losing much speed. After practice CB Champ Bailey commented on the fellow Georgia Bulldog. “As a former [University of Georgia] ‘Dawg,’ I’m always watching him. He’s a guy that you can tell he has a lot of ability. I think the thing about young guys coming in, it’s just understanding that it’s not just about running and catching. It’s blocking and reading the defense—all kinds of little things. So he’s learning his way.”
No. 89 Greg Orton: Orton did not practice today due to a right ankle injury.
No. 16 Quincy McDuffie: McDuffie left practice early today due to a left hamstring injury.
No. 10 Gerell Robinson: Robinson had an up-and-down day. Early in practice he caught a pass that seemed out of reach near the sidelines. Robinson was able to sky and snatch the ball out of the air. However, later in the day he failed to connect with QB Brock Osweiler on a throw at the back of the end zone. Robinson did a good job working the drag route where he could turn on some speed in the open field. He still needs work as a route runner. Robinson will lean in the direction he’s going before he makes his break. Savvy CBs are able to jump the routes and that leads to contested catches, incompletions, or turnovers.
No. 13 Kemonte’ Bateman: I had no notes on Bateman today.
No. 19 Lamaar Thomas: Had some timing issues on some of his routes today, failing to connect with QB Brock Osweiler on a throw over the middle. He did a good job of working the sideline and holding onto rocket passes from Osweiler early in practice.
No. 84 Jacob Tamme: Tamme was back at practice today after missing a few days with a quadriceps injury. He was limited to individual drills and did not get any reps in team drills.
No. 81 Joel Dreessen: Dreessen will miss the rest of training camp as he underwent another minor knee scope. Head coach John Fox commented on Dreessen’s injury after practice. “Different spot, same knee. We performed a scope this afternoon. We don’t know the exact results of that because we were at practice. Again we’ll keep you posted.”
No. 80 Julius Thomas: Thomas battled SS Duke Ihenacho for a pass in the corner of the end zone but came up short. It was a play I was sure Thomas would come down with. Ihenacho was just too feisty for Thomas. He did well on drag routes where ILBs can’t keep up with him across the field.
No. 85 Virgil Green: With a limited Jacob Tamme and an injured Joel Dreessen we’re seeing more from Green on the practice field. He’s not having problems with the dropsies now that he’s working mostly with QB Brock Osweiler. Green is not doing much after the catch but is showing well as a blocker.
No. 82 Jake O’Connell: I had no notes on O’Connell today.
No. 36 Kayvon Webster: Knocked away a pass intended for WR Gerell Robinson off a throw from QB Zac Dysert.
No. 53 Steven Johnson: Welcomed RB C.J. Anderson to the NFL with a big hit after a pass reception. The hit was legal and knocked the big rookie to the ground with a thud.
No. 33 Duke Ihenacho: He continued his strong play today. Ihenacho knocked away a pass intended for TE Julius Thomas in the back corner of the end zone. After the play he let Thomas know all about it, and his fellow defenders came over to congratulate the young Safety.
No. 40 Aaron Hester: The undrafted rookie made a nice play when he ripped a pass away from fellow rookie WR Tavarres King.
No. 52 Wesley Woodyard: Had a big hit on WR Demaryius Thomas as he was patrolling the middle of the field.